Kingdom and Kosmos

Pilgrim 2 001

               Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!  For you are like                 graves which are not seen, and the men who walk over them are not            aware of them.

                                                                                (Luke 11:44)


Values are of primary importance to anyone who wants to walk the Pilgrim Path.  The entire business of going on pilgrimage can be boiled down to a simple question of eschewing one set of values and embracing another.  It’s not complicated.  There are really only two choices.

On the one hand there are the values of the kosmos:  that closely ordered, tightly structured, time-honored complex of principles and techniques that constitute the working basis of the world-system.  On the other hand there are the values of the Spirit:  the living, breathing, fermenting stuff of God’s dynamic, invasive, in-breaking kingdom.

These two sets of values are like mirror images.  On almost every level, the one is the inverse of the other.  They don’t cooperate.  They can’t blend or mix.  Like the darks and lights in a photographic impression, where the one is, the other is not.  They are in fact at enmity:  for it is the very nature and purpose of the kingdom to subvert and explode the kosmos, just as the stone cut from the mountain crushed the iron, the clay, the bronze, and the gold of Nebuchadnezzar’s idol.

To be a pilgrim is to forsake the one and follow the other.

What makes this tricky is the often deceptive relationship between external and internal.  As we’ve already established, it’s what’s inside that counts.  Because a genuine estimate of worth can be such a subtle, elusive, invisible, non-cognitive thing, it’s not unusual for one set of values to be “carried by” or concealed within the outward forms of the other.  When this happens, the same individual’s honest gut reflexes and conscious intellectual commitments can end up at odds with each other.  Awkward, to be sure, but not necessarily uncomfortable.  Quite the contrary in most cases.

That’s because the person in question generally has no conception of what is going on inside him.  As a result, he finds it easy to affirm one proposition while leaning with all his weight upon its contrary.  He may, for example, withdraw from society and adopt the trappings and lifestyle of a humble ascetic because, in his heart of hearts, he wants to make a name for himself.  Or he may sacrifice his life in service to the poorest of the poor precisely as a means of seeking power, position, and influence.

When this is done intentionally, we call it hypocrisy.

Far more frequently, it’s the outworking of a deep, unseen, and sub-conscious choice.







One thought on “Kingdom and Kosmos”

  1. ” … it’s not unusual for one set of values to be “carried by” or concealed within the outward forms of the other. ” Another great piece of writing that leaves me with much to think about.

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